The recent passing of Doris Day at 97 has sadly severed yet another link with my youth and filled me with nostalgia.
Day was “top of the pops” in my late teens and early 20s spent living in then Northern Rhodesia.
She was with us in the old kombi returning to Ndola tired, tiddly and happy from rugby matches on the copperbelt each weekend, hollering her hit songs into the night skies along the way, and she was with us at every party in those far-off days.
Goodnight sweet songbird, you will be forever young for us who too were once young.
I find great comfort and contentment in the passing years and unashamedly look back with affection on days of yore and to be surrounded by people I know of my own age; men and women who grew and flourished in the same era.
Many alas have passed on like the remarkable Richard Mogg about whom I recently wrote a tribute but there are many octogenarians like myself me still knocking around the place now growing old gracefully whom I have known since arriving here half a century ago.
People such as the brilliant former MD of the Daily Dispatch Terry Briceland who, in the ’70s and ’80s, led the paper to great heights and who banished me to darkest Africa some 40 years ago to head up the Daily Representative in Komani, where I spent 21 wonderful years.
Terry, may I say with pride, was a fellow Durban High School pupil back in the day.
Another local DHS old boy of roughly the same vintage is Dr Geoff Howes, a former eye specialist whose son Dale, a Selbornian oarsman of note, went on to win the most prestigious trophy in South African rowing, the Buffalo Regatta Silver Sculls.
Occasionally I run into the incomparable Bruce Gardiner, an Old Queenian whose piano playing has delighted music lovers all over the country it seems forever.
Who can forget the years Bruce entertained us on a Saturday evening with his radio show Over the Rainbow with another Old Queenian, Rollo Scott and his orchestra? Bruce told me the other day he didhad done 600 of these shows!
Another talented musician friend is Springbok angler Mike Sokolich, now in his early 80s.
I met Mike, an Old Dalian, a few years ago when I saw an “In Memoriam” notice in the paper in tribute to one Ken Higgins. I phoned Mike and discovered it was indeed in memory of his friend, the well-known Cape Town pianist.
We sat in his lounge discussing keyboard artists of a bygone age and on a spur of the moment he arose, sauntered over to his piano and proceeded to beguile me with a rendition of Misty, which he performed with ease and grace.
When I urged him to make a CD before, it was too late, the former band leader said with a smile: “No thanks, these days I play only when I’m in the mood.”
A few weeks later he phoned and asked me to call by and pick up his newly-made CD. He had changed his mind and this little compilation contains some of the most beautiful, melodic old numbers ever written and so beautifully played.
And only last week, after many years to my considerable surprise and delight, I got a call from Dudley Schroeder, a former headmaster of Queen’s College, now 83, with whom I had great rapport when I lived and worked in Komani.
And of course, everyone remembers Donald Card, a former hands-on East London mayor, security guru and sportsman, uprighterect and sharp as ever and now into his 90s – another senior citizen who looks younger by the day.
A few of the accomplished sportsmen of yesteryear it has been my privilege to have known are men such as Springbok Buster Farrer, now 82, possibly the most gifted all-rounder in Border sports history; and my dear friend Eric van der Vyver, so incredibly brave in the final days of his life and a Border rugby captain in that golden era of Border rugby when this province gave the All Blacks and British Lions a run for their money.
Eric’s lifelong friends and teammates still with us and with whom I was privileged to have shared many camaraderie-filled lunches are, among others, Chappie Moll, Hilmar Puchert and the once ubiquitous Tony Viljoen.
Now and then I get a glimpse of Syd Laubscher, perhaps not quite an octogenarian yet, a former Border Rugby CEO who so desperately tried to keep Border rugby on track against overwhelming odds.
So to all you wonderful golden oldies out there, I raise my glass and proudly toast you, for what you have achieved and contributed to our community over the years.
And profound words of wisdom from the great Dummy Taylor, headmaster, sportsman and friend, a man who during his lifetime I held in high esteem who once said to me: “Never mock old age, it is a privilege given to very few.”
How true and as Doris Day, my sweetheart of yesteryear once softly crooned: “Que sera, sera.”